Causing harm to Manatees is prohibited under the Endangered Species Act and perpetrators could be jailed.
A manatee from Citrus County was found with the name "Trump" etched into its back. A video on Twitter showed the manatee floating in the water with the US President's name scratched in algae onto its back. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has launched an investigation into the matter. The marine mammal was located in Florida's Blue Hole Spring on the Homosassa River in Citrus County, and thankfully, the manatee "does not appear to be seriously injured." Hailey Warrington, who found the manatee in North Florida, described the defacement as "just disturbing. One hundred percent disturbing," reported USA Today. USFWS and Florida's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission are looking for tips to find out who etched the President's last name onto the mammal, which is prohibited under the Endangered Species Act. A $5,000 reward has been announced for any information that leads to a conviction in the investigation.
“The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is investigating the harassment of a manatee...reported to federal authorities over the weekend discovered w/ words "Trump" scraped in its back ...discovered in Blue Hole on the Homosassa River” (via @CitrusChronicle )— 𝐄𝐱𝐚𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐫 𝐏𝐨𝐩𝐞 (@exavierpope) January 11, 2021
Insurrectioning wildlife? pic.twitter.com/PvzI3pZ5Xn
“Manatees aren’t billboards, and people shouldn’t be messing with these sensitive and imperiled animals for any reason,” said Jaclyn Lopez, Center for Biological Diversity's Florida director, said in a statement. Lopez labeled it political graffiti. "It’s heartbreaking that this manatee was subjected to this vile, criminal act," said Lopez. Manatees were classified "endangered" until 2017 and are considered "threatened" by the Fish and Wildlife Service. “This abhorrent action goes beyond the bounds of what is considered cruel and inhumane," said Elizabeth Fleming, a senior Florida representative at Defenders of Wildlife, in a statement. "I’m disgusted that someone would harm a defenseless creature to send what I can only assume is a political message. We will do everything in our power to help find, arrest, and successfully prosecute this coward.” Manatees are slow-moving and warm-blooded creatures and often seek sanctuary in the spring-fed waters along Citrus County's coastline.
Elizabeth Neville, senior Gulf Coast representative at Defenders of Wildlife, it's not the first time the choices stemming from politics has harmed manatees. She slammed politicians who have done little to protect the environment or the protected species. "Other scars include policies that favor unsustainable development and polluting industries, hamper communities’ abilities to address plastic trash in our waters and impede progress on fighting climate change,” said Neville.
The perpetrators etched the word "Trump" onto the thick layer of algae on the manatee and appear to have brushed the skin but didn't create a wound. Hailey Warrington said the manatee was healthy and not wounded but was exhibiting stress signs. "We don't typically see manatees harassed like that," said Warrington. "I started documenting so we could report it. That's why I have the photos and video in the first place." The Twitter account that shared the video of the manatee with the words Trump etched on its back wrote, "Humans cause so much pain, suffering, and destruction for innocent animals and this beautiful planet’s environment. It is heartbreaking." The incident comes just days after a Trump-incited mob stormed Capitol Hill as Congress prepared to certify Joe Biden as the President of the United States. The Democrats have raised articles of impeachment against Trump for his role in the insurrection.
⚠️HELP FIND WHO MUTILATED A MANATEE: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating who carved the word "Trump" on a Florida manatee. USFWS is looking for any information: cal Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at 888-404-3922. https://t.co/FXQ2l3fYTj pic.twitter.com/jI9kL1BNe5— Eric Feigl-Ding (@DrEricDing) January 11, 2021
Those caught harming manatees could face prison. Being protected under the Endangered Species Act, harming a manatee is a Class A federal criminal offense punishable by a $50,000 fine and/or one year in federal prison, said Craig Cavanna, senior federal wildlife officer, and current investigating officer, reported The Chronicle Online. "It's been my experience that this is very out of character for this community," said Cavanna. "Wildlife conservation is a core value in Citrus County. That's why it's called the Nature Coast." Those with any information regarding the harassment of the manatee are requested to contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation hotline at 888-404-3922.